So whats the purpose of Mario Kart? You get into some sort of loosely defined go kart and you drive on either 16 or 32 (for Mario Kart DS onwards) tracks that use Mario esque themes to win trophies, unlock characters and karts and do it all over again either alone or with friends and family, that's it. The only difference between iterations are the changes and roster of characters. Super Mario Kart was the first title to be released, which used a render style similar to that of F-Zero, followed by Mario Kart 64 which added in new items like dreaded Blue Spiny shell and Fake item boxes while taking away items like the coin and the feather. Mario Kart: Super circuit brought the series to portable consoles, Mario Kart Double Dash brought the concept of 2 people per kart (a concept that has been dropped for all latter versions to date), Mario Kart DS introduced the Retro cups (4 new cups (cups being the groups of 4 races) that had redesigns of tracks from previous iterations of the game) along with Online gameplay and a mission mode (that I'd like to see again Nintendo...), and Mario Kart Wii brought motion controls, tricks and a new kart type, Bikes. I'm skimming over a lot of the details but that's because this is a review of Mario Kart 7 and 8, not the Mario Kart series.
So what do 7 and 8 bring to the table? Mario Kart 7 reintroduces the Coin system from Super Mario Kart. During a race, if you collect coins, you go slightly faster per coin with your max speed being achieved when you get 10 coins. Another big change was customizable karts. As you collected coins (this games way of unlocking secrets along side trophies), you unlocked new kart parts split into three categories. Kart base, wheels and a third category, gliders. Mario Kart 7 brings new forms of track design with it in the form of glider sections (activated when you perform a trick over a special ramp or in mandatory jumps) where karts go faster then on the ground but the weight of a kart will determine how far it can travel. On top of that, karts can finally go under water in some places. A small propeller will appear behind your kart and as long as you stay on the path, you can drive under water. Karts are lighter under water and will jump higher when a trick is performed, traction is also worse then on dry land but it never gets unbearable.
Mario Kart 8 brings with it "F-Zero mode", also known as Anti gravity sections. By running over special panels in tracks, your kart will be able to drive on wall, the ceiling, stay on tracks in space (yes, tracks as in two, but I don't know why they need it now...), up and down waterfalls, almost any surface you can think of. This combined with the returning Glider and underwater sections make for some interesting track design... in the new tracks. Due to the way they were originally designed, most retro tracks don't gain anything from the new modes, some of them even ignore the new gimmicks entirely. Bikes return from Mario Kart Wii with a lot more balance in them this time and a new kart class appears, ATV's which are essentially bikes with the drifting capabilities of karts. New items appear in Mario Kart 8 including the coin (which gives you up to two coins when used, coins still cap at 10), the CRAZY 8 which behaves in the same way as the Lucky 7 item did in Mario kart 7, it gives you the 7 items along with the coin item for you to use, the Pirahna plant which will eat almost anything and give you a small boost when you use it, the boomerang, which behaves similar to the Fire flower introduced in 7 but it allows you to throw 3 boomerangs instead of spamming fire balls and, of course, THE BEST ITEM EVER PUT INTO MARIO KART, the Super Horn. A area of affect attack that hits anyone near the user and any shells nearby as well, this includes the Blue shell. E Gadd finally did it, the menace of the blue shell is over. On the subject of the Blue Spiny Shell (I call it Blue shell for short), the chances of it appearing seem to be lower then previous titles, this could just be me, but I don't recall enough appearaces of the blue shell that count to 10, whereas in previous iterations I've played (aside from 64) I couldn't go a race without being hit at least once.
Aside from a few tracks, I love the track selection in both games, they even bring back one of my all time favorite tracks, Rainbow Road for the N64, and it looks gorgeous.
Here's a video of the original track compared to the remake in Mario Kart 8
If only the track was 3 laps, but alas, twas not ment to be. There are several other great tracks in the game aswell including Tic Toc Clock from Mario Kart DS, Electrodome (which has one of the best songs in the game in my opinion)
If you have a 3DS and WiiU, get these games as they are almost perfect arcade racing games. The only faults I have for them are the requirements to unlock parts in Mario Kart 7 (10 coins per race cap, the problem is fixed in Mario Kart 8 to a degree because of 4 player multiplayer allowing you to get 40 coins per race) and for Mario Kart 8, the Wii Wheel and Battle mode. In Mario Kart Wii, you could choose between Automatic (no drifting) or Manual (standard Mario Kart), whenever I used the wheel, I'd drive Automatic as I couldn't drift with the wheel, I thought it wasn't precise enough. You don't have that luxury in Mario Kart 8 but the WiiU gamepad makes up for this. I don't have enough/ if any experiences with the other control schemes for Mario Kart 8 nor do I have any experiences with online play and the DLC. As for the battle mode, do yourself a favor, don't play it, until they add in arenas for battle mode (if ever). Right now, the only "arenas" are the actual track, which weren't designed for battle mode at all.
I might regret this decision, next week's review is... My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Seasons 1-4... this is going to be a long couple of weeks...